1906, an American newspaperman, Homer Davenport, imported 27 Arabian horses
directly from Arabia to this country. Most people who saw the horses recognized
them as wonderful horses. There were a few detractors,
a good many of whom had horses from other sources which they preferred.
To each his own.
Davenport horses were written about, ridden, publicized, shown, raced,
and bred to almost every other kind of Arabian that came to this country.
They seemed to do fine regardless of what was asked of them. They had a
unique capability as a bloodline: they endured. Everything else that came
to this country when the Davenports arrived, as well as a good many that
have arrived since then, was crossed in with additional bloodlines to the
point that survival of bloodline identity was submerged into the American
melting pot from which most current "Domestic" Arabian horses
so the Davenports. They indeed were bred to everything else, but ever since
their arrival in 1906, a few have been bred to each other. Some foals have
always been produced so that the original bloodlines of the importation
survived intact without anything else being added to them. The total number
of such horses is still scant, but there are more of them now than there
have ever been before.
is a breeding history of 85 years duration now: a long, long time. The
integrity of a bloodline is a fragile thing. If timing and support of mares,
stallions and owners is not exactly right, it is lost. Luck is always necessary
but something else has to work, too, to bring essential engredients together.
There have to have been other good reasons for the survival of the Davenport
owners will tell you that the most important of these reasons, is the continuity
in Davenport breeding of characteristics which American breeders want.
The horses which Davenport brought to this country in 1906, had those characteristics.
Horsemen of those days recognized that these horses had characteristics
which they wanted. Every generation of American horsemen since then has
had the ability to supply those characteristics in a clear-cut, simple
way which their owners have felt was important to continue.
is not to say that other lines of Arabian horses have not supplied the
same needs, but there has been something special about the way that the
Davenport bloodlines have fit into American life. The purpose of this article
is to indicate some of the ties of continuity between past and present,
which has caused this to happen.
the Davenport horses were obtained by Davenport, he had several goals in
mind. Part of his mission was to get horses that would be suitable for
establishment of a remount stud for the U.S.Cavalry. The backing he received
from President Theordore Roosevelt was partly intended to work towards
this purpose. It may be that one of the reasons he got so many males (17),
was that he wanted a supply of remount stallions.
If this was something he had in mind when he made his selection
in Arabia, he must also have realized that remount officers back home would
be looking at his selections according to how they would produce cavalry
horses. The demand of this part of his market was for a useful, general
purpose horse of quality. That is what remount officers would have wanted
then and what American horsemen have wanted ever since.
had other goals, too. On the way to Arabia, he wrote that he wanted to
get stallions that could be bred to western American mares to produce high-grade
ponies for the polo market. Elsewhere, in describing the goals of his horse
breeding venture, he writes that he wants to produce the best polo ponies
that ever followed a ball. Americans have always loved tough, handy horses
suitable for polo-type utilization, and many of the Davenport horses over
the years have continued to remain that kind. Raswan
commented that Letan (*Muson/*Jedah) was the best polo horse in California
of his day, and anyone who has occasion to work with horses of that vital,
muscular bloodline, knows what it is to have a horse that swaps ends not
for meanness but just for the ecomony of the thing. It is a very frequent
pattern with Davenport horses.
also gives as a goal for his desert horses, the production of elegent horses
for pleasure riding. In those days, that was not some kind of maniac horse
that did a weird gait, but rather a horse whose motion and carriage were
of style and beauty and pleasent to ride. The Davenport horses themselves
and through their influence have been noted for the production of this
kind of horse. The carriage of the Hanad line
particularly presents an example. A touch of Hanad adds a grace to a horse
in the showring, but nowhere more importantly than when riding for pleasure
through the countryside. The same bearing and ease stand well in Dressage
himself obviously prized his horses as useful, elegant, and athletic animals.
He was, how unique among our founding Arabian breeders in this country
in recognizing that in the coming day of the automobile, the ultimate value
of the Arabian horse would not be in its physical usefulness, but rather
in the pleasure it would give as a companion animal for woman, children,
and older people. That is the way the Arabian horse utilization has worked
out in this country, too. A few people have these horses for their ability
to perform, and Davenports do well for such people, but most Arabians and
most Davenports are owned by people who have them because they love them
Davenport horse has a special gift for this. many people who have had experience
with various kinds of Arabians will observe that their Davenports are different;
still requiring of horsemanship, but easier to handle, some of them exceptionally
intelligent, none of them suited to training by abuse.
these horses are that way partly because of Davenport's attitude in buying
and breeding the foundation stock. One of the most touching passages in
his book about his importation, My Quest of the Arabian Horse, is
the part telling about his personal communion with his mare *Wadduda on
her return to the desert:
the years since that day in 1906, Davenport horses have meant much to many
people. The importance of the personal relationship is a constant factor
and is probably the single most significant item justifying the expense
and trouble of maintaining the historic breeding group.
are a number of individual items of continuity from the original imported
horses which were valued at the time of importation and are still valued
in descendants now. Some of these concern the stallion *Muson, who was
a horse of unusual individuality. On his way home from the desert, Davenport
wrote to his wife about this horse as a spectacular animal, and commenting
on how he would be valued in New York. The horse had his opportunity for
such fame when he was used as an exhibition mount by "Buffalo Bill,"
in his Wild West Show in Madison Square Garden.
was noted for his fascination with sounds and objects in the distance.
George Ford Morris, the artist, commented that he had often seen him assume
a characteristic 'listening" pose. The inclination to do this continues
in *Muson's descendents, and they still do it in recognizable form 85 years
after the original importaion, and owners still marvel at this remnant
of desert behavior.
horse of particular note in the Davenport importation was *Abeyah. She
was a real beauty, famous for a bulging jibbah and for exceptional speed
in the desert. The jibbah passed on and rather frequently turns up in her
current Davenport descendants. There has been less opportunity to identify
the legacy of speed, but some of her descendants have been noted for the
characteristic. At the age of 12, with little specialized preparation and
having spent his life as a show horse and breeding stallion, her great-grandson,
Antez (Harara X Moliah) equaled the Arabian record for one-half miles.
Antez ws exported to Poland, where he sired a horse named Hashem Bey, who
is reported as the high-point horse at the Polish Arabian races, which
were held at Lwow in 1940. In the U.S. another Antez son, Sartez, set speed
records over a variety of distances. Realistic race evalutation of current
Davenports has not occurred.
of the unique features of present Davenports is their lovely coat characteristic.
Many Davenports shine. They do it on their own. Grooming is not necessary
and may not even do much good. As they get older, the greys often have
a beautiful opalescent color. The chestnuts and bays have a corresponding
burnished appearance, with some of the chestnuts having the bright copper-penny
her pictures, one suspects the coat characteristic came from the imported
mare *Reshan. Whether for that or another reason, the Bedouins loved the
mare. They had lost her by sale and tried to buy her back by offering to
trade, according to which story is taken, either 30 or 50 female camels
for her. In either case, the valueation is considerable, since a frequent
rate of exchange between mares and camels in Arabia was five female camels
of the most famous of the imported Davenport horses was the stallion *Haleb.
Davenport described him as "Our great horse." George Ford Morris,
who may have been America's finest horse painter and was an expert judge
of all kinds of horses, described him as the only horse he could not fault.
In Arabia, *Haleb had also been considered a prime animal. At the time
of his importation to this country, over 200 mares were said to be in foal
of *Haleb show him to have been a horse of magnificent balance of body.
Parts of his skeleton were preserved, including his fine, hard cannon bones
and his skull, which had a pronounced dish. Unfortunately, a good picture
was not preserved of his head.
horse like *Haleb was the kind of horse that Americans have always liked:
well-balanced, athletic, useful for a variety of purposes, and handsome.
He left only a few foals before dying. Included among them was a Saqlawi
line from the mare *Urfah. One of the characteristics which occures in
this line from time to time is a pronounced dished profile, which may have
its origin with the cross to *Haleb.
major breeding stallion of the Davenport importation was *Hamrah. He was
only toe when the importation occurred, so, of course, we have no way of
knowing anything of his origin in Arabia, except that he was the son of
a particularly important mare and by a noted stallion. In this country,
he matured to a magnificent stallion with a short back and a long hip.
Statistical analysis of the AHC studbooks show him to have been the most
significant Arabian stallion in this country through 1946.
Davenport breeding, *Hamrah's influence has been pervasive with many horses
tracing to hm at the grandparent level of concentration, or closer. His
ability to project influence over years and generations may have much to
do with the uniformity and general "frame" of current Davenport
breeding. Chances are that many of the characteristics which most current
Davenports share come from this prepotent desert-born ancestor who is strongly
in the pedigrees of all of them.
we knew more individually about the 15 foundation Davenport horses which
are represented in the pedigrees of currently living Davenport horses,
no doubt we could identify the source animals for many other characteristics
which add to the attractiveness of the Davenports we have today. Unfortunately,
we are never going to be able to make this kind of study in the detail
which we would like. Full information of this sort about the foundation
animals has simply not been preserved.
is a final point, however, for which further detail is not required. That
is that these bloodlines have persisted since 1906, while retaining the
essential factors of identity which they had from the beginning. This is
so to point that, if we could have a conference with some of the oldtime
founding breeders of Arabians in America, they wold still recognize what
we call Davenport Arabians as the same kind of horses Homer Davenport went
to the desert to get: nice moderate-sized, athletic horses that are friendly
and look like the real thing. Some of them obviously show family characteristics
that come from the old horses: *Haleb's balance, *Reshan's coat, *Abeyah's
jibbah, *Hamrah's coupling, *Muson's vitality, a certain inner spark that
may have come from *Wadduda, if it did not also come from all the others.
are characteristics that Americans have prized enough to keep these bloodlines
going. In all the generations of horses since 1906, there have no doubt
been many times when American breeders went to considerable trouble to
maintain matings between Davenport horses, although it has nearly always
been an easy option to instead do attractive outcross matings. Sometimes
survival has been by a thin thread of devotion, but it has held and the
horses are still with us as a blessing for the present, and as an example
of continuity in the breeding of Arabian horses in America.
Back to: Articles of History
Back to: Craver
- "*Wadduda had stopped short again and was scanning the horizon.
I touched the mare with my heels, but she did not move. She was thinking.
Of what, who knows?...So for a long time we waited together--the mare and
I, in the gathering dusk, and as we waited I almost wished that we could
always be alone. The call of the desert came strong to both of us then."